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1600 Te Whatu Ora jobs on chopping block as focus shifts to frontline care

Author
Akula Sharma, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 31 Mar 2023, 8:56AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

1600 Te Whatu Ora jobs on chopping block as focus shifts to frontline care

Author
Akula Sharma, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 31 Mar 2023, 8:56AM

About 1600 Health New Zealand backroom staff could “potentially” lose their jobs in an attempt to strengthen the frontline workforce.

The national health entity is entering the next stage of consultation and considering proposals to “streamline teams” that provide corporate or back-office roles to better support frontline care, a spokesperson said.

The agency was formed in July last year by merging 29 different entities, including the 20 former DHBs, eight shared service entities and Manatu Hauora functions.

Te Whatu Ora-Health NZ chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa said it was continuing to deliver on the actions in Te Pae Tata, the interim New Zealand Health Plan.

“This contributes to the reforms by unifying, simplifying and integrating its team of teams for the benefit of whānau and communities.

“When we were merged on July 1, 2022, we put in place regional leadership teams to get through 2022 winter and Covid-19 surges to ensure we did not disrupt care to patients and communities. This next change proposes to simplify how we work by streamlining teams that do similar work and reduce duplication across the country.”

Te Whatu Ora-Health NZ chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa. Photo / Supplied

Te Whatu Ora-Health NZ chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa. Photo / Supplied

Most of the proposed changes would affect management and leadership roles and/or teams in back-office functions, she said.

“Our aim is to simplify the way we work by putting in place teams that can nationally plan and co-ordinate for consistency, empower regional teams to integrate and implement care and enable locally tailored delivery of care.”

Te Whatu Ora had inherited more than 270 “tier 2″ executive leaders from the previous 29 entities. The consultation proposed to reduce executive management to an estimated 110 tier 2 and 3 leaders, she said.

“As a whole, around 1600 people are potentially impacted. The first areas to go through the change process are commissioning, finance, service improvement and innovation and the National Public Health Service.”

Apa said the organisation was moving ahead with this next phase so it they could be as prepared as possible for winter and “be well placed with most permanent leadership structures in place to support delivery during seasonal demands”.

“We also want to provide certainty to teams about how we will be working together in the future.”

It would not be providing any further details on the proposed structures while it waited for staff feedback. “This is a consultation and what is proposed could change post-consultation.”

Each consultation is set to run for four weeks and decisions on new structures were expected to start being finalised in early June.

Earlier this month, former Te Whatu Ora chair Rob Campbell hinted at the restructure.

In an opinion piece for Newsroom Pro, he hit out at “extensive waste” in the health system resulting from the duplication of roles after the merger of the former DHBs.

He said Te Whatu Ora needed to shift to “a much more efficient and modern corporate structure”.

Campbell spoke of a plan to make those changes, which had not yet been put into action.

“That is not fully done, but the path is set. That now has to be promptly completed and management systems activated around accountable performance targets”.

He said the plan would come with “the disestablishment of many hundreds of overhead roles”, which would allow Te Whatu Ora to shift “hundreds of millions of dollars from overhead to frontline expenditure”.

He said the plan was urgently needed. “There will be future waves of such change, but the first big shift must happen now.”

Newsroom reported that Te Whatu Ora rushed to brief staff about the restructure as soon as Campbell’s column went to print.

Apa had told the Herald that the organisation was “committed to supporting our people as we work to deliver better, more equitable care for New Zealanders”.

She confirmed there would be changes this year.

“Over the course of 2023, we will be working to deliver on the promise of reforms by continuing to unify, simplify and integrate our team of teams for the benefit of whānau and communities,” she said.

“Our proposals are not yet finalised and we do not have any further information to share publicly until we have started our discussions with our people.”

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